Gov. Tom Wolf recently signed the state budget that he said invests in the future of Pennsylvania’s children with the largest public school funding increase in state history. He said the budget also takes steps to stabilize child care to help working parents as they return to the workforce.
“Our economy has weathered the pandemic and now is roaring forward. We are a commonwealth on the comeback,” he said. “This budget will help our state move forward and rebuild a strong, equitable economy that works for Pennsylvanians. It provides the largest education funding increase in state history so our students can get the education and training they need for good jobs and to enjoy a successful life in Pennsylvania. And it isn’t any ordinary increase in funding – it is new funding specifically and equitably targeted at the most underfunded districts that disproportionately serve students of color, students in poverty, students with disabilities and English learners.
“The budget also helps stabilize child care so working parents can return to the workforce, provide for their families and grow the economy. We are addressing the housing crisis, so homeowners and renters will have a roof over their head and a safe place to live. This is a budget that invests in Pennsylvanians.”
The budget increases funding to public education by $416 million, raising the total to more than $1.8 billion. This increase includes:
– $200 million increase to the fair funding formula, for a total of nearly $900 million, which aims to ensure all school districts have the resources to provide a high-quality education that prepares students for success
– $100 million for Level Up, a new initiative providing more equitable funding to the 100 most underfunded districts and the students they serve
– $20 million for Ready to Learn
– $50 million increase for special education
– $30 million increase for early education, including $25 million to expand Pre-K Counts and $5 million to expand Head Start
– $11 million for preschool Early Intervention
– Nearly $5 million for community colleges
Additionally, the budget invests $350 million in American Rescue Plan funds for schools to address learning loss and provide summer enrichment and after school programs to help students with academic, social, emotional and mental health needs.
The budget also provides $50 million in ARP funding for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to support the redesign and growth of the system to make a college education more affordable and accessible for students. The investment is part of a commitment totaling $200 million over four years for PASSHE.
“This budget makes a historic investment in education so our students get the knowledge and skills they deserve,” said Wolf. “Pennsylvania provides almost $2 billion more a year for education than when I took office. Students now have access to better technology, resources and opportunities and we are providing more help to distressed school districts.
“There is much to be proud of in this budget, but I am disappointed that we could not find agreement with Republicans to direct all school funding through the bipartisan fair funding formula to help growing rural, suburban and urban school districts. The Level Up initiative is a down payment in this fight which provides critical annual funding increases for the districts that need it most – but it is far from enough. This is a bold first step to ensure equitable school funding, and we are going to fight to make sure that every student has the resources they need to succeed regardless of their zip code.
“In addition, I won’t rest until we fix the broken charter school law to save nearly $400 million a year by making charter school companies focus on education rather than maximizing profits at taxpayers’ expense. This may have been a missed opportunity, but it’s not the only opportunity, and we will continue to fight to ensure that every dollar spent on education goes to students rather than corporate profits.”
According to Wolf, even with the new investments, Pennsylvania’s school funding remains unfair to many rural, suburban and urban school districts. The state’s fair funding formula only applies to new investments since 2016, meaning about 85 percent of basic education funding is still distributed using student enrollment from 1992, without considering shifts in student population or school districts’ costs.
Wolf added that the state must protect taxpayers from being overcharged by charter schools. The plan aims to fix the broken charter school law to base spending on costs, saving school districts $400 million a year and making charter school companies focus on education quality and ensure transparency in how they spend taxpayer dollars.
Additionally, the budget includes $728.9 million in ARP funding to help stabilize the child care industry as it recovers from the pandemic. This investment aims to help the industry and employees to safely open their doors so parents can return to the workforce with the confidence their children are receiving high-quality care.
“Even before the pandemic, many parents were dealing with the frustration and stress of struggling to find good child care for their children, and the pandemic made it worse,” said Wolf. “This investment will allow parents to return to work with the comfort of knowing their young children are in safe and nurturing child care. This crucial support will help families and employers.”
The budget also increases funding to help Pennsylvanians struggling with rent and mortgage payments to remain in their homes and invests in affordable housing and safety. It provides the following:
– $450 million in ARP funding for rental assistance, building on the dollars appropriated in Act 1 of 2021
– $350 million in ARP funding for homeowner mortgage assistance
– $36 million in ARP funding to help pay water bills
– $282 million in ARP funding to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities to recover from the pandemic and improve patient safety
– $30 million in new state dollars for violence intervention and prevention by local communities and local organizations
The Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed the FY 2021-22 state budget by a vote of 140 to 61.
“This budget delivers on promises we made to Pennsylvanians when every member of our caucus was reelected in 2020,” said Speaker of the House Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster). “We’ve denied the governor’s tax increases, we’ve made responsible education funding a top priority, we are making crucial deposits in the Rainy Day Fund to handle future challenges, and rebuilding trust in elections by establishing the state’s Bureau of Election audits. This is a budget Pennsylvanians can be proud of knowing their hard-earned dollars are moving the state out of a pandemic and into a brighter future.”
According to Pennsylvania House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin), the budget keeps year-over-year spending growth in line to reflect a continuing pandemic-related economic recovery while also prudently saving money to prepare for future economic uncertainty.
“By learning from the past and wisely managing a large influx of one-time federal funding in Pennsylvania to meet current needs and prepare for the future, we can be certain that regardless of what comes our way, we will not have to go back to taxpayers for more of their hard-earned money,” said Benninghoff. “I am proud the House Republican Caucus continued to lead in this budget with providing a significant investment in our students, bolstering nursing homes and long-term care facilities, and ensuring state resources are directed to our most vulnerable.”
Benninghoff praised the securing of $282 million in federal funding for Pennsylvania’s nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to help with the purchase of personal protective equipment, testing and other pandemic-related costs.
“Throughout the course of the pandemic, Pennsylvania nursing homes and other long-term care facilities have been the front line in caring for those most susceptible to this deadly virus all the while struggling to make ends meet as needs exceeded available resources,” said Benninghoff. “The funding provided for them in this budget guarantees they have the ability to obtain the materials they need to protect residents and staff and provide a safe environment for those they are entrusted to care for.”
Also included in the budget is an additional investment that will allow 501 more seniors to participate in in-home and community-based programs.
“Aging in place is important for many Pennsylvanians and I am proud to have worked for additional investment in home and community-based programming for those who wish to remain independent and in a family setting,” said Benninghoff.
Visit pahousegop.com/2122PAbudget for more information.